Gen Z is becoming the “Toolbelt Generation”

More young people are ditching college and picking up skilled trades.
May 26, 2024
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Gen Z in welder attire

America needs plumbers, carpenters, and welders, and Gen Z is ready to get to work.

Gen Z is becoming the “Toolbelt Generation” right in time as America’s skilled trade workforce ages out faster than people are entering the industry. More young people are choosing vocational-focused programs instead of attending community college or 4-year institutions that are facing declining enrollments, per National Student Clearinghouse.

graph showing enrollment change of vocational-focused community college increasing

Several factors are changing the career calculus for Gen Z, including:

  • Trade professions are shedding the dirty, low-end work narrative due to rising pay across various trade fields and through the incorporation of new technologies 
  • The cost of college and high-interest student loans, along with median wages falling for Americans with a college degree, have made some reconsider the return on a college education
  • The growth of AI is pushing more Gen Z to consider skilled trades–many believe blue-collar jobs offer better job security than white-collar ones

The prevailing narrative that Gen Z is destroying America is far from accurate. In reality, they are rolling up their sleeves, getting their hands dirty, and driving economic growth.

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